Freezer malfunction leaves more than 2000 frozen eggs and embryos at risk

Joy Montgomery
March 10, 2018

Some of the samples were provided in the 1980s.

University Hospitals, in Cleveland, has apologised following the fault at one of its fertility clinics last weekend.

UH said it does not know if mechanical or human error caused the freezer malfunction, and the incident remains under investigation.

Patients typically pay about $12,000 without insurance for in vitro fertilization.

"We are so very sorry this happened, and we want to do all that we can to support our families and patients through this very hard time", said Patti DePompei, president of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, in a video posted on UH's Facebook page. Some samples that were unfrozen for scheduled procedures this week were not viable. When embryologists arrived at the center Sunday morning, an alarm alerted them to a temperature change in the tank, administrators told the Plain Dealer.

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This story has been corrected to show that around 700 patients are affected, not 500 patients. There has been a temperature fluctuation that may have damaged the stored eggs they said.

"We are bringing in independent experts to ensure we understand all aspects of this occurrence and do everything possible to address the situation", the clinic said in a statement.

The officials said that one of the long-term storage tank that contained liquid nitrogen had an equipment failure that caused the temperatures to rise temporarily. None of the eggs or embryos will be destroyed, WKYC reported, and University Hospitals has reported the incident to federal regulators. Per a University Hospitals statement cited by News 5 Cleveland, the facility has "initiated contact with all of our patients", and a call center has been set up so patients can set up meetings with doctors. At this time, we don't yet know the viability of these eggs and embryos.

"Our hearts go out to the patients who have suffered this loss", Sean Tipton, chief policy officer at ASRM, told NBC News.

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